Thursday, October 31, 2019

The historical Mary

On Facebook a couple of Catholic women took umbrage at my "Ave Pachamama" post. Here's an edited version of the exchange:

No evangelical denies that Mary was blessed to be the mother of the messiah. That's a red herring.

I am sure Jesus approves of you mocking his mother. All of you biblical scholars should also be aware of the status given to mothers in OT/Jewish tradition.

If Catholic Mariology was limited to the status of mothers in OT tradition, there wouldn't be an issue. I'm satirizing the typology of Catholic apologists like Scott Hahn and Brant Pitre. 

I have seen her myself, so I take your mockery extremely personally. Open your heart and not afraid.

i) Okay, we need to lay down some ground rules. There are Catholics, especially lay Catholics, who live in their religious bubble and become reflexively offended when Protestants criticize their faith. Guess what–it's a two-way street. Catholic theologians and Catholic apologists routinely criticize the Protestant faith. Just recently I was reading Cardinal Müller (former Prefect for the CDF) attack the Protestant faith. I didn't get bent out of shape over that. If Catholicism is true, then it should be able to bear up under rational scrutiny rather than retreating into hurt feelings.

ii) You indicate that you witnessed a Marian apparition. Whatever. I didn't see what you said you saw, so your experience has no evidential value for me. 

iii) I honor the historical Mary–the NT Mary. I don't honor Catholic Mariology. That's just a sectarian theological construct. 

iv) Imagine a Mormon saying to me, "I'm sure Jesus approves of you mocking him. I take it extremely personally when you mock my Jesus!"

Well, I'm not mocking the historical Jesus. I'm not mocking the NT Jesus. I'm mocking the Mormon Jesus, who's a completely different kind of being, with a completely different backstory, than the historical/NT Jesus.

v) I would no more open my heart and pray to Mary than I'd open my heart and pray to Krishna. 

And Paul seeing Christ on the road to Damascus has no evidential value for you either?

That's a good question:
i) Muhammed said the angel Gabriel appeared to him. Swedenborg said he had tons of visions. Joseph Smith said the angle Moroni appeared to him. Oral Roberts said he had a vision of a 900-foot Jesus. Do all those purported visions have evidential value or credibility as the Damascus Road experience? 

ii) There are different ways to assess such claims. If it comes from someone I know and trust, someone who in my experience is a level-headed person, then I may well find it credible. 

iii) Likewise, some psychological reports have veridical elements. Some promotions, near-death experiences, and out-of-body experiences have corroboration. 

iv) If there's a pattern of reported experiences by independent informants, that's cumulative evidence that they experienced something.

v) Another consideration is if the informant has something to gain by telling tall tales or–conversely–something to lose. Paul had a lot to gain by not becoming a Christian and a lot to lose by becoming a Christian. Another example would be Muslims who convert to Christianity based on dreams or visions of Jesus. 

vi) In addition, if there's compelling evidence that the Bible is true, then that's evidence for what it reports. So the source of a reported event can confer credibility on the reported event.

vii) There's also the question of theological consistency. Christianity and Mohammedanism can't both be true. Christianity and Swedenborgianism can't both be true. Christianity and Mormonism can't both be true. So that affects how we assess the purported visions and apparitions of rival religious claimants. We have a standard of comparison. And the same considerations apply to purported Marian apparitions.

Why would Marian apparitions be doubted or totally denied by fellow Christians? Maybe a bias against a woman from heaven?"

i) Actually, I've written a fair amount about postmortem apparitions, including grief apparitions and crisis apparitions. I've cited two crisis apparitions in which a deceased Christian mother appeared to a grown child. So I have no bias against women from heaven. My position on that is a matter of public record, so your misandrist narrative has no factual basis. 

ii) However, Marian apparitions would be theologically confusing, disruptive, and subversive. Catholics view it differently, but a theological bias comes into play when traditional Catholics assess reputed visions and apparitions claimed by Muhammed, Swedenborg, Joseph Smith, Oral Roberts et al.


  1. Here's my response in the same thread:


    "Why would Marian apparitions be doubted or totally denied by fellow Christians?"

    1. Christians don't accept everything another Christian says simply because they're Christian. Do you, as a Catholic, accept everything another Catholic says simply because they're Catholic?

    2. I'm a Protestant but I don't even accept everything another Protestant says just because they say it. For example, I've heard other Protestants (male and female) say they've seen apparitions, but I don't immediately accept what they say simply because they're a Protestant Christian. I bring skepticism to what they say just as much as I'd bring skepticism to someone claiming to have seen a Marian apparition. In short, there needs to be more reason for me to believe them than their mere say-so.

    3. What's the reason one ought to believe Beatrice when she claims the blessed virgin Mary appeared to her?

    "Maybe a bias against a woman from heaven?"

    1. What makes you think a Marian apparition is necessarily a "woman from heaven"? Is what you see always what you get? Do our eyes never deceive us? The Bible itself teaches "even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Cor 11:14).

    2. Also, why the prejudice against men? Why do women like you and Beatrice have to immediately jump to the conclusion that the reason someone is skeptical about a Marian apparition is because they're biased against women? Isn't this attitude itself sexist against men? To always assume the worst motives when it comes to men? This seems similar to how pro-abortionists argue: "no uterus, no opinion!"

    3. Of course, there are female Christians who are also skeptical about some Marian apparitions.

  2. Interesting she puts her vision on a par with the road to Damascus conversion. Was she accepted by the disciples?

    I would love to hear what "Mary" said to her. Did "Mary" glorify herself or Christ?